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Hearings Aug. 14 on proposals for cell-phone tower district, agricultural open space clarification

The Town Council will hold public hearings on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 on two proposed changes to the zoning ordinance. One would allow a cell-phone tower on the Jordan Farm property on Wells Road; the other would clarify a current provision that encourages preservation of agricultural land as open space in new developments.

Both proposals were recommended by the Planning Board after public hearings at their June meeting. [Video] [ Draft Minutes]

The agricultural-easement change was initiated by the board, which is currently reviewing a development that is proposing 2 acres of agricultural land as part of its required open space.

"The Planning Board acknowledges that processing ordinance amendments during a development review process is awkward," says a June 21 memo from the board. "It is not uncommon, however, to identify the need for clarification when applying ordinance provisions to a real-world situation."

It's the first time a developer has proposed an agricultural easement, added as a type of open-space preservation in 2015 at the recommendation of the Future Open Space Preservation Committee. The provision relies on the state's definition of farmland, which includes a 5-acre minimum size. According to the Planning Board, however, the intent of Cape's provision was not to limit the size. "Developing a farmland definition became problematic and no farmland definition was recommended by the (FOSP) committee," the memo says, "and certainly nothing with a minimum size."

The proposed clarification would allow preservation of agricultural land that meets the state's farmland definition, even if it does not "independently" meet all of the state's criteria.

The zoning ordinance offers a density bonus for projects that preserve agricultural land, but in this case, developer Joel Fitzpatrick is not claiming the bonus. Fitzpatrick is proposing a 38-unit condominium and 8-unit apartment complex in the vicinity of Spurwink Avenue and Aster Lane. He is looking to preserve more than 8 total acres, or 46 percent, of the property as open space, including the agricultural acres.

If an agricultural easement is not accepted by the council, Fitzpatrick's representatives have said the 2 acres of agricultural land, owned by Bill and Lois Bamford of the Maxwell Farm, would be offered as traditional open space. The agricultural easement would allow the Bamfords to continue owning and farming the property, but any future use by any owner would be limited to agriculture.

Cell-phone tower

The other zoning change up for public hearing Aug. 14 would create a zoning district on the Jordan Farm property, 19 Wells Road, to allow a cell-phone tower. Global Signal Acquisitions IV LLC (Crown Castle) is looking to replace an existing tower on neighboring property that services 80,000 vehicles and approximately 1,000 households, as well as Cape Elizabeth public safety communications, according to Crown Castle representative Paul Peckens.

If approved, Crown Castle will still need the Planning Board to approve the specific tower location and changes to the site. Joe Chalat, representing the Planning Board, told councilors at their meeting July 10 that the plan would not encroach a critical wetland buffer, and that no access road will need to be built.

The planned monopole tower would accommodate antennas from Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T.

Both zoning-ordinance proposals were reviewed by the council's ordinance subcommittee on July 11 and were recommended for approval.

A hearing on proposed marijuana regulations is also scheduled for Aug. 14.